WGCL produced a prime-time, magazine-style news program Monday that may have done what it intended: Snagged eyeballs, tuned in for the NCAA championship basketball game, to sample WGCL’s news. The hour-long “Eye on Atlanta” was slick, highly watchable and mostly packed with quality newsgathering and storytelling.
* It led with a nine-minute investigation by Wendy Saltzman into an unexpected loophole that potentially screws purchasers of used cars. If they rely on the auto history provider known as CarFax, they won’t necessarily learn about major accidents. Some used car dealers have figured that out, and Saltzman popped one of them on camera. Her piece had the added element of a CarFax spokesman fumbling the reporter’s questions about its failure to provide accurate histories. Saltzman and her crew also got a written warning from Roswell police for failure to leave the premises of the dealership when ordered to do so. Grade: A
* Stefany Fisher’s harrowing investigation into patients who patronized a cut-rate cosmetic surgery clinic went on for twelve minutes. But the piece had an abundance of evidence that the company, called Lifestyle Lift, had performed lousy surgery on too many patients. Fisher’s piece also had former employees who said the company strong-armed them into making sales for facelifts they knew they couldn’t deliver. At the end of the piece, Fisher revealed that the company is suing her personally and Meredith, the owner of WGCL (backhandedly reminding viewers why “new media” eg. bloggers and such cannot replace a deep-pocketed media company committed to exposing scheisters). It was a powerful follow-up to a piece Fisher first delivered months ago on WGCL. Grade: A
* Kim Fettig delivered three well-edited but otherwise forgettable vignettes on recession-related issues. (Oddly, one of them suggested a way to save money on cosmetic surgery.) Fettig’s pieces exposed a big flaw in the format: “Eye on Atlanta” was a 60 Minutes-style magazine, complete with that program’s historic absence of identifying supers. Fettig put a bunch of people in her pieces who were never identifed, one of whom may or may not have been Cynthia Good. We’ll never know for sure. Grade: B
* Adam Murphy produced the only worthwhile Restaurant Report Card we’ve ever seen. In it, he highlighted inconsistencies in health inspection laws, and lax enforcement of laws requiring display of restaurant inspection reports. We’ll take this any time over a laundry list of mishandled food at random suburban restaurants. Grade: B+
* Guess who made two appearances? In her first one, weather anchor / heartthrob Dagmar Midcap had a by-the-numbers report on tornado preparedness. It was a glaringly weak moment in an otherwise strong program. Grade: C+
* Likewise, Midcap’s kicker was tough to watch, and for the wrong reasons. It was a first-person piece about her swimming with Hammerhead sharks at the Georgia Aquarium. The piece was couched as an “overcoming my greatest fear” piece. In this case, Midcap says she has a phobia about snorkeling masks. The content was overpowered by Midcap’s sing-songy library-lady delivery, complete with the occasional chuckle and syrupy-sincere inflection. Funny thing, too — when she speaks spontaneously in the field, as she did during a standup, she sounds like regular folks. No grade ‘coz we were too distracted.
The program showed off WGCL’s strengths. It showed off the one personality who is the face of its billboard promotion. It may have gained some viewers. It will certainly win some Emmys (because it wasn’t a regularly-scheduled newscast).
It probably also raised eyebrows among Atlanta folks who expect to see a racial mix of talent on their local news. Noticeably, this mostly well-done showcase lacked such diversity.